Accessibility vs. Accommodation

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Summary: Eliminating barriers for an individual upon request (accommodation) is good and important. Better is creating an inclusive environment that naturally welcomes all gifts and allows them to be given (accessibility).

What’s the difference between providing accommodations and accessible course materials?

In a classroom setting, course materials created with accessibility in mind require no adjustments for students requiring accommodations.  They are designed with all levels of ability in mind from the start!  Instructors and instructional designers who keep our Six Basic Skills and Universal Design principles in mind, are already on their way to an accessible classroom.   

In classrooms without universal design principles guiding the design and development of class materials, accommodations for students, on the other hand, are made on an as-needed basis. In this situation, a student with a hearing impairment, for example, may require closed captioning for all videos and online lectures (amongst other accommodations). An instructor may be alerted to the need for these accommodations by the first week of class. The first few weeks of a course can be chaotic and making these types of accommodations is time consuming; many instructor rely on other team members or outside organizations to complete tasks like transcribing and captioning, which can take two weeks (or more) to complete, depending on the number of videos and lectures and their length. This creates delays in learning for the student and additional and unexpected work and planning for the instructor. 

Planning ahead by creating transcripts and making closed captioning a regular part of course development can not only prevent unnecessary delays for your students requiring these accommodations, as well as a stressful and time-crunched development process, but video and lecture captioning benefits many other students, as well (e.g. English language learners or learners watching videos in loud or distracting environments).

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